Scientists have identified a new and unlikely raw material for biodiesel fuel: Alligator fat.
The discovery came about due to growing concern that using soybeans and other food crops to produce biodiesel fuel will raise the price of food. Their report documenting gator fat's suitability for biofuel production appears in ACS' journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.
Rakesh Bajpai and colleagues note that in 2008 most of the 700 million gallons of biodiesel produced in the United States came from soybean oil. The search for non-food sources of biodiesel already has identified a number of unlikely candidates, including spent oil from deep fryers in fast-food restaurants and sewage. The scientists realized that alligator fat could join that list. Each year, the alligator meat industry disposes of about 15 million pounds of alligator fat in landfills.
They showed in laboratory experiments that extracted oil from alligator fat can easily be converted into biodiesel. The oil actually was more suitable for biodiesel production than oil from some other animal fats. The gator biodiesel was similar in composition to biodiesel from soybeans, and met nearly all of the official standards for high quality biodiesel.